Election 2010 Lookahead: Sunday 11 April

The who, when and where of the campaign.

Twenty five days to go and counting:

Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats

All three parties are being a little cagey about their campaigning plans today, perhaps too busy finishing off their manifestos (Labour is due to unveil its own tomorrow, the Tory party on Tuesday). So we know, for example, that Nick Clegg is visiting three constituencies today and travelling in a plane chartered from RAF Northolt, but to which constituencies, we don't know. Meanwhile, we're guessing it's a day of rest for Sam Cam after her visit to Yorkshire yesterday and some expert video blogging. Meanwhile, the big question in Labour circles is whether Gordon Brown will disappear to Hampden Park at 3pm to watch the Scottish Cup semi-final featuring Raith Rovers and Dundee United. Brown is a lifelong Raith Rovers fan.

Other parties

The British National Party's Nick Griffin continues his "National Weekend of Action", aka some canvassing in Barking and Dagenham with the BNP London Assembly member, Richard Barnbrook. In response, the RMT union has organised an anti-BNP rally in Barking. Among those expected to attend are the union's general secretary, Bob Crow, the musician Billy Bragg and the former England footballer Luther Blissett, representing Show Racism the Red Card.

The media

With the usual mix of The Andrew Marr Show and the Politics Show today, let us mark your card for the other leaders' debates. While Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are prepping for their first head-to-head-to-head on Thursday 15 April (8.30pm, ITV1), leaders from the Scottish Parliament will also be debating soon. For your diary, the dates to see the Scottish First Minister and SNP leader, Alex Salmond, the Scottish Conservatives leader, Annabel Goldie, the Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray, and the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Tavish Scott, are 20 April (STV), 25 April (Sky) and 2 May (BBC).

Away from the campaign trail

. . . and on to another campaign. Sudan is holding its first multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections in 24 years. Today's twice-delayed poll is the first since 1986, when Sadiq al-Mahdi's Umma party was victorious. Three years later the government was overthrown in a military coup that ultimately brought Omar el-Bashir to power.

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Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.